His life was one of paradoxes. Prophets had foretold his coming and its circumstances; both his mother and his adoptive father had been given messages by angels regarding his birth. When he was taken to the great Temple of his people to be presented and to have the purification rituals of their faith carried out, a holy man and a holy woman both gave testimony that this child was the Redeemer and Savior long promised to his people. Yet he grew up as a poor child in a poor town, far from the centers of power. People knew him as the son of the village carpenter, the one that was born after a hasty marriage between his parents---a circumstance that was thrown back in his face as a taunt years later. Later he was the carpenter himself, and after that, a wandering rabbi with a band of rag-tag disciples. In the end, he gasped out his life on a Roman cross---a mode of death that his people regarded as evidence of being cursed by God. He was betrayed by one of his own followers, condemned by the religious elite of his own people, and executed on a trumped-up charge for the sake of political expediency.
His people were looking for a king. He came as a peasant.
His people wanted a savior from their servitude to Rome. He came as a savior from their sins.
His people longed for a military hero who would drive out their enemies and restore the glories of the kingdom days of David and Solomon. He came with the message of a kingdom in which all peoples would be welcome, but on God's terms, not theirs---a kingdom in which the last would be first and in which their assumptions about God's favor would be turned upside down.
His people wished for bread in a hungry world, and were ready to force him to kingship to get it; he refused a crown bought by miracles, and instead gave himself as the bread of life.
His people desired a comfortable sort of goodness; he shattered those desires by presenting a cross, and a way of life and faith that costs nothing to enter, yet demands everything.
Two thousand years have changed little---and everything. We still want food, but not the living bread that can feed a hungry soul. We want to be given good things, but we will not acknowledge our own emptiness and our helplessness to fill it. We want goodness, but not holiness or self-sacrifice. We want love, but not the Lord of love---not when we know instinctively that his love is not indulgence of our whims and desires, but a consuming fire that lawfully demands everything we are and have. We want peace, but not the rule of the Prince of peace. And so, we go on as we have for millennia: trying to be our own gods, our own love, our own joy, and our own peacemakers, and recycling the same dreary headlines of violence and greed and the lust for power.
Yet something changed at that birth at Bethlehem. Where we have tried to reach up and failed, God reached down. What could not be seized, he gave and gives through the child who was born at Bethlehem---the child who was born to die so that you and I might live as never before. Those who follow him have never been perfect; some have deeply shamed the name they proclaim; and even at their best, they have spread the news they proclaim with human faults and flaws attached to God's words of life and love. Nonetheless, it remains good news, and indeed the only hope we truly have; the news that the baby born to die became the Man who conquered death for us, whose blood washed away the stain of our sins, and who lives today as both God and man, King of kings and Lord of lords, so what whosoever will may be forgiven and made new.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Merry Christmas.